Protopunk fans will find much to drool over in these two documentary features, the former centered on the force of nature that was Iggy and the Stooges, the latter focusing on publicist/ manager/ journalist/ all-around impresario Danny Fields, who was intimately involved in the early careers of the Stooges, MC5, Ramones, Velvet Underground, Doors, the Cockettes, Judy Collins, Leonard Cohen… I could go on, as Fields does, at length.
They’re both films full of fascinating characters, their stories about the good old days evoking a time and place of incredibly rapid change in the culture, an expansion of the boundaries happening before your eyes, through the sheer will power of some people that dug rock and roll and wanted to push it further.
Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger is his long awaited love letter to the Stooges, and it mostly hits its mark. I seem to find every music doc made these days skimpy on actual music, surely there should be enough to keep us aware of why these peoples’ personal story is important. It’s not Jarmusch’s fault that there’s very little Stooges footage from the day, and he uses what he has to good effect. The band members are articulate and thoughtful, and sometimes hilariously funny. It’s a pretty straight-forward rock doc, but everyone loves the Stooges, so everyone should see this film at least once in their life.
Danny Says is even less music-driven, but when tunes appear, it’s always good stuff. Fields is a natural raconteur, given how he made a living, just finding his way into whatever the hip thing happening was at the moment. Whether getting the Stooges and MC5 signed to Elektra and so forth, getting 16 Magazine to hip itself up in the late 60s, borrowing a few grand from his mom so he could manage the Ramones, who needed a drum set… The guy’s got stories, and photos to back him up (look close and you’ll see local icon Tomata DuPlenty in one of the Cockettes images). He’s also got eyewitnesses, all of his on-camera guests speaking of him with obvious warmth. But honestly, it could be a film of nothing but Fields telling tales of the old days for three hours and be worth watching. More of a think piece than a head-banger when it comes to movies, but well worth your time if stories about your rock heroes from a foul-mouthed participant.